Shame is a powerful silencer. It can slowly creep its way into our lives and choke out our voices. When it comes to intimate partner abuse, there is an overwhelming amount of confusion, fear, and an inability to trust your own judgment.
The classic question — “Why didn’t you just leave?” — forces everyone into the same box of assumptions. The answer to that question isn’t simple, and Stephanie Land’s memoir “Maid” gives us a raw, unfiltered dose of what it’s truly like to be in her shoes. I think it’s important to read stories like hers because it breaks the cycle of shame around this very real reality. The hard truth is that all of us either know someone or are in the very situation Land was in. Our daughters, sons, sisters, brothers, mothers and fathers need us to step up and stand tall in the face of injustice.
Land addresses the obstacles she faced and the wall of challenges that stood between her and freedom. One of them was her support system. In the book she writes about how she didn’t have anyone in her life who could help her. Her family was stuck in a cycle of toxic behaviors, and she didn’t have friends to help her or a mentor to guide her. Land had to navigate all of these unknowns by herself. Leaving an abusive situation is extremely difficult to do when you are in isolation.
Another obstacle she writes about is the challenges surrounding poverty. Once she left the abusive situation, she didn’t have any money to start over. She couldn’t find shelter, food or child care without government assistance. The process to receive any help was exhausting and long. Even though she was working, it wasn’t enough to provide basic needs. Financial security can impact the decision to stay or leave.
Land also writes about navigating the trauma. There wasn’t time to address the consequences of abuse because she had to focus on survival. She didn’t have the luxury of processing years of trauma because she had to focus on finding shelter, providing food for her daughter, and fighting legal action.
Land writes about many other issues, and it’s important that we listen to her story. This book will open your eyes to the struggles people face when it comes to abuse. It will challenge you to confront your own biases, areas where you can extend help and give empathy to others. I hope her story will open a conversation and help us all find solutions in a dark area. I believe there is power in our stories, and Land has something bold to say that all of us need to hear.
• “Maid: Hard Work, Low Pay, and a Mother’s Will to Survive” by Stephanie Land was published by Legacy Lit in January 2020. It retails for $17.99.
• Krystal Griswold works for Inklings bookshop. She and other Inklings staffers review books each week in Thursday’s SCENE.